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Old Wesley Beat ‘Hinch To Climb Into Fourth Place
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Old Wesley Beat ‘Hinch To Climb Into Fourth Place

Old Wesley Beat ‘Hinch To Climb Into Fourth Place

Another free-scoring contest at Donnybrook where Old Wesley and Ballynahinch shared out eight tries, and two closing penalties from Wesley winger Barry McLaughlin proved decisive in a 35-32 home win.

Replacement out-half James McBriar's second try of the afternoon moved Ballynahinch ahead for the first time at 32-29, before Barry McLaughlin split the posts twice in quick succession to complete his all-important 15-point contribution from the tee.

Prop Ken Knaggs had a big influence too in those defining final minutes, forcing the ruck penalty which McLaughlin turned into the winning score and claiming a relieving turnover just before the final whistle.

Old Wesley started the game on the attack and took the lead with a fourth minute try from second row Mark Robinson, which was converted by winger McLaughlin. Ballynahinch sought a quick response but the Wesley defence stood firm with Rory Stynes and Ian Cassidy putting in excellent tackles to force a knock-on and relieve the pressure.

But back came 'Hinch and hooker Andrew Harper showed his power to go over for their first try which was converted by winger Steve Macauley to tie things up. Wesley went back on the attack again and were awarded a penalty which the reliable McLaughlin put between the posts for 10-7.

However, immediately from the restart, Wesley were penalised and Macauley was again successful to bring the sides level after just 15 minutes.

This was now turning into a very attractive encounter with both sides intent on playing a high tempo open game which was ably assisted by visiting Italian referee Elia Rizzo, who allowed the game to flow throughout – much to the delight of the spectators.

Wesley resumed on the front foot and showed excellent continuity with backs and forwards interlinking, the result of which saw centre Ger Finucane go over for their second try of the afternoon. The ever dependable McLaughlin converted.

Continuing the pattern of score for scorer, Macauley hit back with a 'Hinch penalty from in front of the posts, closing the gap to 17-13 with 22 minutes on the clock.

For the remainder of the first half, both teams continued to play open running rugby but the defences held firm. A feature was the excellent Wesley scrummaging and when you consider that the first three second rows Iain McGann, Michael Dunleavy and Josh Hinde were unavailable, it is a testimony to the performances of young Aaron Browne, making his debut at this level, and try scorer Robinson.

Like the opening 40 minutes, the second period continued to be open and fast moving with Wesley the first to go on the attack. Knaggs made a fine run and when Ballynahinch strayed offside, Finucane saw the opportunity to take a quick tap penalty and complete his brace of tries. Again McLaughlin duly obliged with the conversion.

With the scoreline at 24-13 to Wesley, and Ballynahinch forced to make two substitutions with out-half Ross Carlisle and goal kicker Macauley having to leave the pitch through injury, it looked as if Morgan Lennon's men would run out comfortable winners.

However, this did not turn out to be the case. Shortly after coming on, McBriar, in the number 10 position, and Jordan Grattan, who slotted in at outside centre, showed great pace and with hard-running centre Stuart Morrow coming more into the game, it was not long before they started to open the Wesley defence which resulted in a try by McBriar which he himself converted.

Arguably having his best game in a Wesley jersey, Knaggs then won a turnover and with a great turn of pace ran some 20 metres. The ball then found its way to Stephen Boyle who expertly evaded a last-ditch tackle by McBriar to score in the corner. McLaughlin narrowly missed the conversion.

It was 'Hinch's turn to have their best spell of the game, though, as Grattan got up in support of another fine break by Morrow to score under the posts. Almost immediately, the Co. Down outfit came roaring back and again some strong running by both Morrow and Grattan saw McBriar in support to go over for his second try.

This time the try-scoring replacement made no mistake with the conversion and Ballynahinch were now in the lead for the first time – 32-29.

Wesley held their nerve, though, to capitalise on ‘Hinch’s second sin-binning – two-try hero McBriar went off – as McLaughlin’s accurate kicks saw the visitors overhauled, the last penalty awarded for a high tackle. Their third win has Lennon’s charges up to fourth in the table, two points ahead of ‘Hinch

Referee: Elia Rizzo (FIR)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Rory Stynes; Barry McLaughlin, Isaac Leota, Ger Finucane, Alan Jeffares; Tim Clifford, Ian Cassidy; Ken Knaggs, David Rowley, James Burton, Aaron Browne, Mark Robinson, Darren Horan (capt), Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.

Replacements: Craig Telford, David Henshaw, Jonathan O’Sullivan, Matthew Bursey, Wes Deverell.

Away Team

Justin Rea; Steve Macauley, Stuart Morrow, Davy Nicholson (capt), Chris Quinn; Ross Carlisle, Chris Gibson; Kelvin Hamilton, Andrew Harper, Stuart Orr, Stewart Evans, Kenny Morton, Keith Dickson, Ben Pentland, James Simpson (capt).

Replacements: Jonny Blair, Jonny Murphy, Brian Howard, James McBriar, Jordan Grattan.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Mark Robinson, Ger Finucane 2, Stephen Boyle; Cons: Barry McLaughlin 3; Pens: Barry McLaughlin 3

Away Team

Tries: Andrew Harper, James McBriar 2, Jordan Grattan; Cons: Steve Macauley, James McBriar 2; Pens: Stephen Macauley 2